Sean Ivory: Teacher by Day, Composer by Night

Sean Ivory: Teacher by Day, Composer by Night

Ava Stathakis , Public Relations/Marketing Manager

Every teacher has a life outside of school. Some could have typical, mundane, everyday normal lives while others really put themselves out there and keep themselves rather busy. So which one is choir teacher Sean Ivory? He composes music with Paul Caldwell outside of school, not something a teacher would typically do.

“When I moved to Grand Rapids, I met Paul Caldwell. We started creating music for our choir at the time, the St. Cecilia Youth Chorale,” said Ivory. “One of the first pieces we wrote got published and became a best-seller. It still is very popular, and there are many Youtube recordings of it, it’s called ‘Go Where I Send Thee’.”

Music has always been a huge part of Ivory’s life. He has been playing the piano since the age of 9, within the last 4 years he’s been playing the bassoon, and more recently he has picked up the the violin. It was at age 12 that Ivory first tried composing.

“I started writing music when I was twelve. Nothing good or worth listening to, but I really enjoyed the process,” said Ivory. “In college I wrote a choral setting of Dylan Thomas’ ‘Fern Hill’ on a dare. It got performed that year by a choir and it was so cool to experience people singing my work.”

Not only has Ivory’s work like “Fern Hill” been performed, but other pieces that he has worked on with Paul Caldwell as well. These pieces include “Go Where I Send Thee” which is popular and there have been many YouTube recordings of it and “Hope for Resolution”. The latter piece has an interesting story behind it.

“[“Hope for Resolution”] was a piece about the end of the Apartheid era in South Africa and the beginning of reconciliation between the races under Nelson Mandela,” said Ivory. “We wrote it in order to teach our students about those momentous events back in the 90s.”

Recently Ivory wrote a big piece for choirs and orchestra for LiveArts at the Van Andel Arena called “I Will Rise.” Another piece “John the Revelator”, which is popular all over the world, is another piece Ivory and Caldwell composed together. A guitarist, Steve Vai, did a cover of this particular piece.

“’John the Revelator’ was used by the guitarist Steve Vai on his album “The Story of Light”. The track is called ‘The Book of Seven Seals’, and it is basically our whole piece with a heavy metal overlay. It’s loud and fun,” said Ivory.

All of his songs have a different feeling to them. “Go Where I Send Thee” and “Hope for Resolution” have a slower and a bit more serious tone to them while “John the Revelator” has a much more upbeat tone to it. While these songs have been vocal, Ivory recently tried his hand in something different.

“Most of what I have written is vocal, but I did just complete a piece for brass octet which will be premiered this [December 10th and 11th] by the Grand Rapids Majestic Brass.” said Ivory.


However, Caldwell recently was a victim of a hit and run accident and, although he survived, he was badly injured. Most mobile movements prove to be rather difficult and has currently put a hold on him and Ivory composing music together.

“We are taking a break from composing for at least another year. His accident was very serious and he is only now starting to be able to move and live independently. I am still writing things on my own,” said Ivory.

Music is without a doubt Ivory’s biggest passion in life. While he has always been a classical music writer he hopes that maybe someday he might get to try writing music for films.

“I love creating music for choirs, and also music for musicians to collaborate on,” said Ivory. “I love putting musicians together for projects. The whole idea of sharing talents with others to make something beautiful is very exciting to me.”

You can check out all of Sean Ivory and Paul Caldwell’s music at